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13 of 13 episodes seen
Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Maji Love 1000% introduced us to some vapid and brightly coloured characters who quickly grew a place in our hearts like a shockingly virile parasitic worm.
There's, you know, "her" / "thing" / "soup-eyes-chan" / "pink" (or as some call her, "Haruka"), the girl who can't sing - sorry, I'm thinking of the rest of the cast - I mean, read music. And then there's the rest of the gigolos, "hime-cut", "manwhore", "blue guy with irritating vibrato", "heart-defect-kun", "guy who voiced a prison guard in Enzai", "yatta", etc. These, our beloved friends. They have returned to us.
Cecil is bored with being a cat and a grandmother and decides to enroll in Gigolo School with the rest of the cast. Unfortunately he brings with him a gaggle of other cast members. I would guess there was two dozen in all. It's difficult because they all came without their personalities. Don't forget your drinking games - drink when every new character is introduced and we'll end up colour-blind, hey girls?
Along with Cecil's janitor or whatever, there's the addition of a rival gang of senpai singers (presumably they were touring the world during the first season, or at least the countries that aren't anti-LGBT). Seems like these senpais finally noticed them. Well done boys. BTW, did you know the band's official name is STARISH? I thought it was Uta Pri. Not STAR, or STAR-like, just an 'ish'. Like, you know, they're not quite celestial orbs... more like glow in the dark watch faces. This is who we're rooting for.
As well as Senpais, STARISH (who knew, right?) are competing against HEBENSU for the Uta Pri Prize. Gee, with a name like that, I wonder who will win?
OK, sit back, 'cos I know you've edged towards the very boundary of what constitutes a seat. Time for some spelunking in what little depth this series has. Don't worry, we won't need a snorkel.
The music this time round is much the same. Various themes used throughout were forgettable. We skipped the OP every time, it's an anal waxing of a song. The ED is a little better. Of course it's incorporated into the final episode (as always). It's bland, too many parts, and for a long time I thought it spelt out STARFISH, but no, it was STARISH. That is, until Cecil joined the band, who saw that coming? He obviously brought with him the 'F'.*
P.S. Image songs were enough to drive me to violent crime. Blue guy's especially verges on animal abuse.
Depressingly high standard as usual. There's a lot less chibi this time round, obviously someone read my review.
The fight scene in one episode went shounen for a while, it was an amusing aside to take me away from my crushing despair over everything this anime stands for.
Less inside mist than the first series.
Haruka's fashion is a bit more toned down this time round, or maybe my retinas are just scorched.
Made me wish I was deaf.
Saotome is pretty much the saving grace of this series. Saotome is kind of Michael Jackson meets Goku. He talks in Engrish a lot and has a (sadly late) rivalry with someone called Raging who dresses like a pimp. I am shocked and saddened that we cannot date him.
All in all, 2000% no. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Noein is quite a surprising choice to get licensed and dubbed for Western consumption. I can think of many other titles that are perhaps more commercial (or even more deserving). Noein starts out unremarkably, in the typical anime fashion: group of friends encounter mysterious mysteriousness. More specifically, while doing a test of courage, twelve-year-old Haruka and her group of friends run through a reportedly haunted part of the city when Haruka sees something her friends can't - blue snow falling from the sky. This leads to Haruka and her friend Yuu's quest to save the universe from imminent destruction, as the evil alternate dimension Shangri-La attempts to destroy all of space-time. So - the usual.
What initially drew me in to Noein was the sci-fi plot, which is actually based on the Many World's Interpretation of quantum mechanics. Shangri-La, the 'evil' dimension, and La'cryma, home to the Dragon Cavalary seeking to put an end to Shangri-La's machinations, are not simply enemies vs enemies. In fact, it could be said the Dragon Cavalry are fighting themselves - their evil doppelgangers, to be exact, versions of themselves that diverged at some split in space-time. This is an interesting commentary on the nature of development, especially juxtaposed with the adolescent uncertainty our protagonists grapple with - what school to go to and ultimately what to do with their lives. To equate the choices we make everyday with the principles of quantum ambiguity is a very clever move on the creator's parts, making the scientific theory approachable and the seemingly-normal choices of our characters full of suspense.
While the plot is has an overarching theme and direction, the action is mostly character-driven, coinciding with the series' themes of ambiguity and alternate realities. Unfortunately I would say the characters are probably the weakest point of the series. As twelve-year-olds, they are irritating, as I'm sure is true to life. Yuu is pressured by his over-bearing mother to get into the best school despite being tortured by doubt over his own future, while Haruka is more adjusted though pretty much ignored by her own mother. Their group of friends have various problems, such as unrequited love, which are explored in subsequent episodes. Personally, I would have preferred the protagonists to be a little bit older, as I don't think much is gained by having them be so young, as they act high-school aged anyway.
Of course, their present-day manifestations are quite different to their future selves. Without giving too much away I can definitely attest that the changes between how we see our protagonists in the present day and how we see them in Shangri-La and La'cryma is fascinating and is the catalyst for some of the most shocking twists of the entire series.
The art is a mix of CGI and line-drawing, and I think for the most part it looks great, though there are a few moments where the CGI wobbles a bit before finding its balance. The colours used are bright and vivid, though in La'cryma they are notably more subdued. Remarkably, there were only two animators for the entire 24-episode series, and changes in their style as they alternate episodes are noticeable, but not distressingly so.
The music used throughout is perhaps a questionable mix of more ethereal j-pop and classical scores. The opening song grew on me over the course of the series, though I do think it's forgettable, it has a melancholic feel. Tangentially, I love the shots of snow in the opening.
I watched this in the English dub, which I would describe as adequate to good. I found that the protagonists (Haruka voiced by Melissa Fahn, Yuu voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, and Kurasu voiced by Crispin Freeman) were very expressive and their voices fit the characters believably, whereas the side-characters (Ai voiced by Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Isami voiced by Bryce Papenbrook, and Miho voiced by Lara Cody) are less convincing, though they are on the periphery of action for most of the series.
At 24 episodes, the series does deliver a consistently entertaining and suspenseful plot with a satisfying conclusion. However, if that doesn't leave you sated, the DVD does contain some extra material, most notably a gag reel. I have to say, while maybe not suitable for children, it's obvious the dubbing team had a lot of fun and the results are extremely amusing and almost worth watching the show for on their own merit.
Overall, Noein is a gem of a series with themes of isolation, friendship, personal responsibility, fate and quantum mechanics. Noein consistently delivers a fantastic sci-fi story that looks great and provokes the tantalizing, torturous question: who will you be if you take a bad turn or make the wrong decision?
Format: Animated, Box set, PAL
Languages: English, Japanese
Number of discs: 5
Studio: starz home entertainment uk ltd
DVD Release Date: 22 Oct 2007
Run Time: 604 minutes
Originally posted at marusamarento.wordpress.com read more
May 19, 2013SSJMaster vs. Xinil - A story of epic battles! Sea... (Anime) add
6 of 9001 episodes seen
After buying another anime DVD from Amazon, I kept getting emails recommending Mnemosyne to me, but after reading some reviews I decided it was best to watch on Netflix instead. At six episodes, decided it wouldn't take up too much of my life - plus, if I didn't like it, I could just turn it off and not worry about what to do with a DVD I didn't want to watch. Unlike most anime, instead of being comprised of 25 minute episodes, Mnemosyne has an expansive 45 minutes per episode, meaning there is enough time to create an entire fully fleshed-out world and establish various characters despite the short series length.
Rin, the titular character (in more ways than one), runs a private detective business in the Tokyo district of Shinjuku. She deals with various cases with the help of her assistant Mimi. Thing is, being Magnum P.I. aside - Rin's immortal, and when she's not tracking down lost cats, she's getting involved in more supernatural mysteries that seem to find her whether she's on or off the map. What is the darkness haunting Rin - and is it the same force behind her inability to die?
From backgrounds to finishing touches, Mnemosyne's art isn't really anything to write home about. The character designs along the same lines with generic crazy hair colours, big eyes and, yes, large breasts - I get second-hand backache just looking at this series. Similarly adequate is the music, apart from the opening song, which I skipped every time because I just couldn't stand it, but that is my bias.
It's clear that Mnemosyne's best quality is the use of time throughout the series. Recurring characters dare to do what many cartoon characters never do - age. And do they age! There is no better illustration of Rin's immortality than to have generations sweep past her as she stays the same, and the implied loneliness this creates. And it isn't just people who age - society and technology sprints along at every new episode. From totally immersive MMORPGs to intuitive virtual-reality shopping at a fingertip, this is one of the most intriguing aspects of the show, especially how it relates to Rin's investigations. Though I have to say - Rin, if you only get one case every twenty years, maybe it's time to consider a career change?
From the best to the worst: the explicit porn and gore scenes. I felt that, like a VN, Mnemosyne should have had an option to turn these scenes off altogether as they added nothing to the plot, feeling nothing more than embellishment to attract freaks and their wallets than any kind of artistic or political endevour. There were many times I considered like closing the browser window when these scenes happened, and they do colour my ultimate perception of the show negatively.
As for the dub, I thought the voice actors did very well with the material they were given. Whereas the majority of the cast didn't last more than a few episodes, they fit their roles well enough. Colleen Clinkenbeard deserves a special mention for her consistently natural delivery as Rin, even during more... challenging scenes.
Overall, the series presents some compelling mysteries and the setting and time-span are utelised effectively to create a unique perception of human impermanence from the eyes of one who cannot age. The evolution of technology throughout was also fascinating to watch. The ending's reveal on the nature of Rin's mysterious condition also drew from several mythical sources, suggesting that the creators had done a lot of research on ancient civilizations and their beliefs. Without giving too much away, I also appreciated the subversive attitude towards what we consider angelic beings - it felt like the first time Mnemosyne had dared to make a statement that wasn't explicitly sexual in nature. However, I felt that as much as the erratic, brave plot was a cartographer's delight, the pornography and gore are enough to take this series off the map for me. While Mnemosyne has potential, it is preoccupied with selling itself, and selling itself too cheap at that.
Amazon.co.uk price: £6.75
Language: English, Japanese
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Manga Home Entertainment (UK) Ltd
DVD Release Date: 13 Sep 2010
Originally posted on marusamarento.wordpress.com read more
18 of 18 chapters read
Though the title "Tokyo Babylon" evokes a contrast between the urban sprawl of 1980s cityscape and the ancient city of desolation, perhaps Sodom and Gomorrah would be a better allegory for the cold and corrupt city that lends itself to the scenery of Tokyo Babylon.
The city’s influence on our main character, Subaru Sumeragi, is undeniable. Thirteenth in the long line of onmyouji (spell-casters, mediums, or exorcists), he is employed as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist to relieve Tokyo’s residents, past and present, of their emotional baggage. Despite his obvious power he has a passive, neurasthenic personality, as soft as wax and as wavering as candlelight. Ultimately a kind and selfless sixteen-year-old boy, the pressure and grime of city life slowly weighs down on his soul.
Not that Subaru’s life is one of introversion and agony – at least not at first. His twin sister Hotoru ensures that. Aggressively cheerful, her personality likely an unconscious front put on to support Subaru’s weaknesses. Her idiosyncrasies are a source of humour and warmth throughout, especially her endevours to push her brother together with their mutual friend Seishiro Sakurazuka. “I wanted you to have something you would love so much, that you wouldn’t care what others thought. Something you wouldn’t change your mind about. It didn’t matter what it was. I just wanted you to have something like that,” she explains to her brother. Seishiro, despite his surname having distinctly sinister connotations with death, is a mild-mannered and chirpy vet who couldn’t possibly be anything more than he first seems.
Starting in a generic monster-of-the-week format, Tokyo Babylon gradually reveals more and more of the characters’ backstories and the tangled web woven between fate and free will.
This is something of a hallmark of CLAMP: the notion of “inevitability”, though it may not be as evident in this as in their other work. Tokyo Babylon could be thought of as the encapsulation of their various themes and tropes: the occult, good and evil, self-sacrifice, sexuality. While some may view this as nothing but talentless repetition or ego masturbation, despite being somewhat cliche due to the context of CLAMP’s subsequent fame, Tokyo Babylon is what I consider the pinnacle of CLAMP’s craft.
Stylistically, the art in Tokyo Babylon gradually improves throughout the seven volumes. Subaru is drawn effeminately and with an elegance that belies his innocence. CLAMP in true form take great pains exploring extremely detailed fashion and distinctive character designs, replete with standard 90s CLAMP anatomical proportions. This is particularly prominent in Subaru’s dress-sense, with his trade-mark gloves and meticulously rendered coats with buttons, zips, lapels, pleats et al. Whether this is truly the style of a sixteen-year-old boy is up for debate, but it is certainly stunning to look at, especially on the full-colour covers and the small posters inside the front cover of each volume.
While Tokyo Babylon may seem like fluff, even in the earlier stories its use of Shinto ideology to present didactic inquests into social issues is scathing. Subaru’s power leads him to help many people, from the murderous to the lonely, and very few sections of society escape without commentary.
It’s this pull of inevitable reality where Tokyo Babylon’s true intentions start to unfurl.
In a dream, a man tells the child Subaru, “Did you know? They say buried underneath every cherry tree is a corpse. [...] The reason the cherry blossoms bloom so beautifully every year is because of the corpse buried underneath.”
Just as the true form of beauty is seen to be one of ugliness, everything we know about the characters is perceived a different shade in the light of truth.
As we saw through the relentless critique of society, so we see more starkly the juxtapositions of obligations and choices, industrialisation and sorcery love and death, and ultimately the selfishness inherent in selflessness.
We see how the catalyst of despair that ultimately manifests as malevolence in the last volume began as an undercurrent that has rippled in every page, panel and brushstroke since the very beginning. Perhaps it is this that gives Tokyo Babylon its unusual allure, palpable tension and lurking melancholy that has endured the 23 years since Tokyo Babylon’s first printing.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Tokyopop (15 July 2004)
Originally posted on my blog http://marusamarento.wordpress.com/ read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
Some exceptions to this rule are as follows:
- If you're competing with a friend at a drinking game (drink every time the lead girl stutters, you'll lose consciousness fast - you're welcome).
There are no other exceptions . . . only excruciating elaboration.
Uta no star prince hyphen sama music note maji love 1000 percent sign (it has not earnt the familiarity of UtaPri with me) is a depressingly high-budget anime of a dating sim aimed towards women. Ostensibly about the power of music, love and friendship, it is, realistically speaking, actually about jack shit.
Our protagonist is a modern day Yamato Nadeshiko with eyes the colour of soup, who wears a short skirt and can't do anything by herself, except play piano. So of course she enters a prestigious idol-making music academy (disguised as a gigolo school) where the ratio of male to female students is astonishingly unbalanced. Despite a personality that is as inviting as her pet cactus and terrifying, terrifying eyes she manages to attract several of potential suitors, apparently through magic, or, as yaoi would put it "sex smell". By the end of this 13 episode series (or, as I like to think of it, six and a half hours of my life I will never get back) Soup-chan has to pick one of the guys to duet with for her graduation audition. Thus the achingly vacuous reverse-harem sausagefest begins.
Daringly, unlike several music-based anime series that came before it, such as Nodame Cantabile, Detroit Metal City, Beck, K-On!, and so on, Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Maji Love 1000% decides to forego having any listenable music tracks in its OST. The OP is as dull as the protagonist's personality and the ED (which you will hear in various instrumental and acapella forms throughout) is the musical equivalent of putting a cotton bud too far in your ear and experiencing the crippling though dull facial pain that follows. Other tracks in the OST are just forgettable.
Like a song that's so cute it angers you, the talented vocal cast in this show fail to shine. Miyuki Sawashiro, for example, is just incessantly irritating as the voice of our main character - and similarly with Mamoru Miyano, as all I wanted to do was give his character a surprise tracheotomy with a pen for that goddamn vibrato he used in every song. It's the same with the other voice actors, though those two were particularly grating. Most of the male characters, except the slightly shady evil twins and split personalities, of course, have bizarrely high voices in a desperate bid to sound cute. Or maybe there's an implicit rule that all male Japanese singers are eunuchs, I don't know.
The concept of a music academy that caters to exclusively creating idols that sing pop songs, rather than to cultivate actual talent, is an apt metaphor for this anime.
On the surface the art is pretty, bright and cheerful, but it soon becomes clear how the studio cut corners with the budget - the horrific spasms the male characters experience when dancing, the occasionally over-bright scenes where characters are standing in thick fog though they are indoors, and - I can't express my anger enough over this - the chibi. It's like the art director (cunningly disguised as the manager of Death Records) went "bitches love chibi, give them MORE chibi, FUCK!" and that is what they did. If I had a drink every time there was chibi, I would be dead.
Though I enjoyed hating this anime, and laughing at the incredible stupidity (talking to her grandmother in her head - presumably her grandmother is dead - presumably that cat has the spirit of her grandmother - did her grandmother just turn into a bishie?), there is a more serious issue with this show. That is, the reason for its very existence - to perpetuate the kind of obsessive fan culture that encourages people to watch pretty boys in every stereotype you can imagine, from sweet to suave and silly to tsundere, have ~subtext~ with each other while still being interested in the [insert yourself here] main role. The same kind of people that would buy the merchandise and image CDs. It leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth.
Much like staring into our lead girl's eyes, watching this anime, you will realise it has no soul - and that watching it probably devalues your own. Like an egotistical person, the show is admittedly pretty, but, boy, doesn't it know it. read more
1 of 159 chapters read
Moyashimon is ongoing, with 11 volumes at present, though only 2 have been translated and released officially and only the first one is floating around the Internet. The first two volumes coincide with the anime.
Despite the "super power" nature of Tadayasu's ability to see and interact with microbes, the manga doesn't dwell on that point and simply follow Sawaki Tadayasu's life with his friends and colleagues at agricultural university. If you're looking for a sci-fi backstory or angsty protagonist, you should probably turn back now.
As usual for slice of life, the characters are key. The cast are unique in both personality and outward appearance, including Hasegawa, who would probably fit in with a genderswitched Detroit Metal City, to Tadayasu's senpai Takuma, who is obsessed with bugs and almost looks like a bobblehead doll. Our protagonist, Tadayasu, is relatable without sacrificing his personality, and seeing his obvious reluctance to go to university after being ostracised for his "gift" melt away as he interacts with the cast has all my d'awws forever. Enjoyably, the microbes are not devoid of character, whether it be all that the Japanese L. yoghurti have a chonmage or that L. fructivorans (the microbe that turns sake bad) look super drunk.
The set-up of every chapter makes it easy for anyone to jump right in, with notes in the margin informing the reader of key facts about the situation or characters in question, though, notably, the author uses these to surreptiously add tidbits of humour - such as the rumour that Misato has a liquids fetish - to otherwise dull summaries and introductions of the microbes in question. Each volume also has omake material, which is mostly just of the microbes being cute, which is fine by me (why isn't there a microbe-only K-On, is what the world should be asking).
The art is consistently pretty, with big almond shaped eyes and expressive faces for most of the cast (except Takuma), that don't go the easy way out with chibi effects. Most of the cuteness is saved for the microbes, especially A. oryzae's huge grin.
The setting of university is pretty familiar but a surprisingly nice change from high-school fare, and the backgrounds are adequate but not really notable.
Though set in a relatively specialist area, the manga never makes you feel stupid or throws information in your face, and instead you learn along with Tadayasu and the other first-year students. The goings-on at an agricultural university are surprisingly compelling, whether focused on bizarre fermented foods from around the world or being forced to shove your arm up a cow's butt.
To conclude, Moyashimon is one of the rare manga that simultaneously made me laugh and feel a little smarter than I did before I picked it up. The cast and antics are hard not to like and harder not to recommend; I can only hope Del Ray release further volumes and for this series to gain the popularity it deserves. read more
11 of 11 episodes seen
The two characters are supposedly gaybones for each other.
No. 6 is a beautifully animated series by Studio Bones, who also gave us Full Metal Alchemist and Soul Eater. It is based on a series of light novels and should be known for its literary allusions and dystopian undertones. However, though the potential for an intelligent sci-fi anime is there, it is never fully realised.
Even in the light novels the plot seems rather dodgy, indecisive on whether it wants to focus on mythology or science as a basis for the series. As such it is an awkward blend of both, which is similar in its effectiveness as trying to force two like-poles of a magnet together.
This is the telling fault line in the foundation of the entire premise, and it is not alone. The stereotypical image of a sci-fi fan, wearing their Star Trek uniform and watching Babylon 5, does not meld well with the idea of romance, let alone boys' love, in general; especially as what romantic interaction there is between the two mains feels wedged in as an afterthought. While the original novels integrated the romance in alongside the development of the plot - making this a case of adaption decay - it is still ultimately these conflicting ideas that weaken the show at its heart. If the series leaned more towards a more mythical slant I believe that what shounen-ai there is would have been melded into the plot a lot more naturally, as historically mythology has never been shy of contraversial pairings between its characters.
The plot itself is rather badly adapted overall: this is one if those shows you have to read up on to understand exactly what has happened. Possibly this is a case of the show being compressed so much, but after reading the summary of the last volume (which I can't recommend enough - http://hiriajuu.livejournal.com/7568.html) it seems that Studio Bones apparently, like many of the characters, had a stroke, and decided to make shit up. Overall the gaps are too great for the average viewer to try and guess what's going on, and the composition of the series feels very inconsistent episode to episode. It just left me with a slightly annoyed feeling afterwards. However, if you're a softcore sci-fi fan or hardcore BL nerd with the imagination to fill in the gaps, perhaps this won't be much of an issue for you.
Whereas the characters themselves are compelling, in theory, (the dreamy boy genius, exiled tsundere with a ponytail, as well as a journalist-turned-pimp and a dogkeeper whose gender you will spend more time pondering than the actual intricacies of the plot), but in practice the characterisation is inconsistent and at sometimes enough to make you wonder if the characters have had strokes. One minute Nezumi and Sion are getting along fine, the next they're arguing, the next they're...dancing?
Though there is the fan emphasis on the shounen-ai elements, if you go into this show on that merit alone, you will be sorely disappointed. Though there are one or two signs of affection between the two male leads, Nezumi and Sion, as a romance it is sorely unfulfilling and as mentioned before, the motivations of the two are unclear at best and agonizingly OOC at worst. The ending, without giving any spoilers, doesn't improve on anything.
But not all is terrible about this show. The voice acting is quite good; notably, Sion's seiyuu does a fantastic job at tormented screams of pain. The other character's voices fit them well and I have no qualms here.
The saving grace of this series is the animation: it is stunningly pretty. The character designs are unique enough, but it is the backgrounds that are truly beautiful. Especially detailed are the iconic buildings, representing the cold, steeled nature of the city itself.
The music used was atmospheric and appropriate for the scene, as were the opening and ending songs, though the ending animation felt rather out-of-place and as the series went on, I began to openly resent its abrupt intrusion into the story. I really enjoyed the croaky vocals of the OP and would probably download it to listen to; the rest, not so much.
Many people will watch this series and, much as I did earlier, pontificate on if, why and how shounen-ai /BL/homosexuality belongs in a sci-fi setting. So it is ironic that No. 6's biggest weakness is the same as science fiction's greatest shortcoming.
No. 6's biggest defect is not the huge gaps in storytelling nor the compression of source material to fit it into five and a half hours of anime - though these are glaring - but the fact that, ultimately, No. 6 feels cold. As cold the metallic buildings and swathes of blue we see in the very first moments of the opening; as cold as the hearts of the people that run the city. Though the characters were smart, cute, at times funny, I felt no emotional connection to them after the show ended. The question is not, 'can sci-fi be gay too?' but 'can sci-fi cultivate a romance, of any orientation? Can sci-fi make me emphathise with the characters even if there is a complicated plot and futuresque setting?'
For No. 6, the answer is no. read more
Sep 21, 2011SSJMaster vs. Xinil - A story of epic battles! Sea... (Anime) add
13 of 9001 episodes seen
Many action adventures rely solely on plot, letting the characterisation come second; inversely, many romances have virtually no plot to speak of, letting character interaction and reflection drive along the drama - while historical chronicles often rely on the setting and the carefully researched daily-living conditions of the characters to paint a rich saga of that time and place.
Baccano! - Italian for 'ruckus' - is a blend of all these genres, and yet, it fits none of them.
The 2007 anime, produced by Brain's Base (Spice and Wolf II, Kuragehime) and based on a series of light novels, is something of an enigma. It is simultaneously infamous for its popularity and unpopularity, recieving nothing but praise from foreign fans and nothing but apathy from Japanese ones.
A possible reason for this is that it doesn't feel like an anime.
To be clearer, this feels solidly American, from the jazzy soundtrack to the character designs, from the trains to the accents (in the dub, at least). As a Western viewer, even if not as an American, this feels instantly relatable.
Of course, it helps that we get thrown straight into the action.
Speaking of, the first episode is something of a decoy. We immediately get two characters discussing a story who are never to be seen again (outside of the OVAs, anyway, Karyll~) and then a clusterfuck of spoilers for the next 13 episodes. Is that girl crawling up the train the rail tracer? Did that guy just lose his arm? Did someone just kill a kid? Did his fingers just..? It's messy, it's bloody, it's confusing.
It is hard to be original and compelling without being a mindfuck, but despite the fantasy element, Baccano! feels thoroughly grounded in reality. Perhaps it's the realistic setting; perhaps it's because the characters act so much like we would. Capturing the surprise we felt as children, watching the idle sketches in the corner of your notepad suddenly gain life as we flipped through, and audacious, like robbing a train for explosives with only your boyfriend and your two friends by your side.
After the first episode the story is a non-stop ride on the Flying Pussyfoot (if you need a minute to laugh that off, take it now), along Eve's search for her missing brother (who everyone hates), the clashing of the Gandors and Runorata families in what must be the longest cardgame in history, and the quest to recreate an immortality elixir, the panacea, the ultimate goal of the alchemist. The story slips in and out among the different times with graceful ease, and a title card with the year appears for a second as a transition. Tension is continually built and smaller revelations continue to break as we see other character's points of view on different incidents, overlapping, building up and foreshadowing.
Despite the seismometer of a plotline and the lack of clear protagonist, characterisation is never sacrificed. Characterisation comes first in this series, as everyone has their past and their reasons even if they aren't immediately apparent. Why does a crybaby like Jacuzzi have such a large tattoo on his face? Why is Chane so silent? A woman in a suit, in the thirties? And where the hell did Firo get such a snazzy hat?
The period setting is gloriously rendered, yet, it is not a setting that the series gloats about. There are hardly any scenes that pull back and focus on the environment as a pat on the back for all the research and effort put into recreating it. Though the series is very obviously set in the 1930s, we see it through the characters' eyes as their present - pressing, urgent, real.
I mentioned romance before, and, without giving too much away, the affectivity of the characters throughout all this constant turmoil is never sacrificed. Firm friendships are made from chance meetings and several canon romances appear, each one uniquely forming in ways that tug upon the heartstrings and ultimately feel very real.
Of course, I can't talk about the validity of this series without touching upon the English dub, produced by Aniplex. This is a dub that has been ranted and raved about in anime circles, and as someone who watched sub first and who genuinely prefers Japanese dubs to English ones, I was very prepared not to like it.
While the Japanese dub certainly isn't bad, the addition of accents and slang added so much to the characterisation and atmosphere that it was almost like the difference between 720p and Bluray HD: like watching a slightly better, sharper series.
However, this dub is no means perfect: the generic cute voice that sounds so natural in Japanese dubs came off slightly annoying with Maria (a general complaint of all English dubs, not this one in particular nor the voice actress herself), and the fact a few epic lines of Ladd's were changed. 'Thank you, fuck you, a villain has arrived' is one of my favourite things to say when entering a room, and its omission irked me a little bit - if memory serves, some other lines were changed, but it wasn't so obvious in their cases. However, I think this is a small price to pay for such perfect synching of, for a lack of a better term, the lip flaps. They were absolutely perfect, throughout it was hard to believe the animation wasn't made to fit this very dub.
The soundtrack, too, is absolutely top-notch. The OP is plain addictive, and while the ED is rather dull in comparison, it does grow on you. The OST throughout the series always adds to the scene and atmosphere, never feeling out of place.
The art in this series seems rather dark at first glance. There is not much use of bright colour in the series, but there is a deep saturation like the smog that clings to a city and fits the general air of the 1930s well. The character designs are on the realistic side and though many of the older, blonde men look alike, most characters have distinctive visual traits that set them apart and make it easier for the viewer.
The characters themselves are all enjoyable in their own way (except Dallas). Isaac and Miria are contenders for the most well loved character duo of all time, the most incompetant thieves ever, who spread happiness inadvertantly wherever they go. Isaac rather looks like Andy from Cowboy Bebop, don't you think? Other than Isaac and Miria, there is perpetually closed-eyed Maiza, estrogen brigade bait Firo, stoic Chane, surprisingly bishounen Luck Gandor, a guy who eats birdfood, an explosion fetishist, delicious shota, the Rail Tracer and enough psychopaths to keep you chugging along until anime does some sort of answer to Girl, Interrupted.
I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys piecing together a very satisfying plot or anyone who enjoys a cast of diverse and interesting characters. This is not a story for someone who wants to switch their brain off; nor is it for anyone with an aversion to animated blood or gore.
This review is about the story that is Baccano! It is a story can never really end. Why? Because it's enjoyable, of course. read more